Holocaust survivors back criminalizing Nazi symbols (JERUSALEM POST) By JOANNA PARASZCZUK 05/30/12)
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Holocaust survivors and attorneys representing them called on
Wednesday for Knesset to approve a controversial bill that would make
using Nazi and Holocaust symbols a criminal offense.
While civil rights groups argued the bill would harm freedom of
expression, Holocaust survivors said that while free speech was
important, there should be limits.
"Politics cannot reduce the importance of the Shoah to the Israeli
people," said Holocaust survivor Miriam Grieber.
Attorney Uri Weisenberg from the Center of Organizations of Holocaust
Survivors in Israel (COHS) said any and all use of Nazi or Holocaust
symbols should be outlawed.
"Freedom of expression of great value," Weisenberg said. "But it is
not the ultimate sacred value."
The remarks came during a hearing of the Knesset´s Constitution, Law
and Justice Committee, which convened to prepare the proposed
legislation, dubbed the Nazi Symbols Bill, for its first reading in
The Nazi Symbols Bill is a combination of four separate bills, all of
which seek to criminalize the use of Nazi symbols.
While public display of Nazi symbols is banned in several countries,
including Germany, Hungary and Poland, it is legal in Israel.
In recent months, secular and religious Israelis have come under fire
for using Nazi symbols or the term "Nazi" as a provocative way to hit
out at political opponents.
In January, Holocaust survivors and survivors´ organizations
condemned ultra-Orthodox protesters in Beit Shemesh for using
Holocaust imagery during demonstrations, during which some people
wore concentration camp uniforms and yellow Stars of David.
Meanwhile, the Im Tirtzu movement is suing a group of left-wing
activists who dubbed them "fascists". An attorney representing Im
Tirtzu said the remarks linked the Israeli movement to the Nazis.
The first two bills, proposed by MK Uri Ariel (National Union) and MK
Yoel Hasson (Kadima), would make it a criminal offense to use any
Nazi symbol, as well as the improper use of Holocaust symbols -
including wearing yellow Stars of David and concentration camp
The same bills also make it a criminal offense to use the term "Nazi"
as an pejorative term for another person, including by expressing
hope that the Nazis´ goals of exterminating the Jewish people will
eventually be realized, or by expressing regret that those genocidal
goals were not fulfilled.
The law would be punishable by six months in prison and a hefty fine.
However, calling a person a Nazi would not be an offense if it were
proved to be true, or if done within the context of historical or
scientific research or reporting.
Meanwhile, MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima)´s bill proposes prohibiting
the use of any Holocaust or Nazi-linked icon or call anyone a Nazi-
linked name. Violation of the law would be a civil wrong punishable
by one year in prison.
The fourth bill, proposed by MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi)
proposes banning Holocaust-related symbols in all advertising and
commercial materials unless approved by the Interior Ministry.
In Wednesday´s committee hearing, MK Solodkin said she felt her bill
was important because "the Jewish people must not belittle the
Meanwhile, MKs on the left and civil rights groups opposed the
criminalization of Nazi symbols, saying the bill was "problematic and
MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) said that whilst there is no doubt the
Holocaust was a "traumatic event in Jewish history" and a
particularly sensitive subject that caused pain when certain symbols
were used, the proposed bill was an "insult to freedom of expression."
Khenin said the bill would also harm the memory of the Holocaust.
Attorney Lila Margalit of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel
(ACRI) also attended the hearing, and expressed her opposition to the
"The importance and centrality of the Holocaust serve only to
exacerbate the gravity of this attempt to dictate when and in what
context it is permissible to mention this event," Margalit wrote in a
letter to committee chairman MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) on
When MK Rotem asked Margalit whether she considered incitement to
racism as freedom of expression, the ACRI attorney replied that the
use of Holocaust symbols, even yellow Stars of David, are "legitimate
Attorney Amir Fuchs of the Israel Democracy Institute also argued
that freedom of expression should only curtailed in extreme
situations, such as when an act could harm state security or a
person´s good name.
"Dressing a public figure in a Nazi uniform is such an extreme case,"
Meanwhile, MK Israel Eichler (United Torah Judaism) backed the bill,
criticizing left-wing activists for inciting against the Haredi
Eichler said the Israeli media had published cartoons making fun of
the ultra-Orthodox public in ways reminiscent of the Holocaust.
COHS attorney Weisenberg pointed out that the Nazis had not
differentiated between religious and secular Jews.
No decision regarding the proposed legislation was reached on
Wednesday, and the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee is
expected to convene again shortly to debate the bill. (© 1995-2011,
The Jerusalem Post 05/30/12)
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